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Slow Garden Chronicle: Parsnips

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Someone told me recently that parsnips are notoriously hard to grow. This is only my second year of growing parsnips, so I am hardly an expert, but a quick internet search suggests that it’s all down to their germination.  I’ve done a lot of that and learnt a few things along the way.          

Last year I grew a bumper crop of Gladiator and Guernsey, although I couldn’t tell you which was which.  Because the germination of parsnip seeds takes so long, it can be hard to be certain how successful it’s been in the early stages.  My general strategy with sowing direct is to wait until seedlings appear and then fill in any gaps with more seeds.  This strategy works quite well as a successive sowing approach, but with a three-week germination time I got a bit jumpy, so I just kept re-seeding the bed until I had two full rows.  Once the seedlings were more than about 5cm left them to it. 

By mid winter we had harvested them all and enjoyed many parsnippy meals…..and then two more seedlings appeared.  This must have been about January, and I hadn’t the heart to pull them out come spring time.  So I left them to grow big and flower for the benefit of the hoverflies. 

I think I’ve mentioned that I was late in planting seeds this year.  I planted the rest of my packet of Guernsey/Gladiator into the next bed in the rotation – and it did germinate – but I lost the seedlings early because I didn’t water well enough.  By then I had run out of seed and it was too late to buy more for re-seeding.

Meanwhile, the gigantic parsnip plant finished flowering and set masses of seed.  Why not plant that? I thought.   It was a bit late to be planting in August, but I had nothing to lose and fresh seed is meant to be best. 

Well, they all germinated!  Now I have a huge bed of parsnip plants and already the thinnings are big enough to cook.   I expect we’ll have the perfect size to roast individually for Christmas.  

In other news, the borlotti bean crop is shelled and frozen, but small green pods are still appearing so I’m harvesting them to eat green, as they won’t have time to mature.  A lot of the outdoor tomatoes survived the blight in August and are slowly ripening to red.  My sprouts still look remarkably small, but I’m sure they will catch up soon. 


Text and Images (C) Claire @theslowfix A slow food devotee, Claire is constantly searching for new ways to enable us all to live sustainably.


The Slow Food blog welcomes contributions on the topics of Food, Farming and Agriculture. The contents may not entirely match the views of Slow Food, but reflect the journeys of the authors. To write for us please click here

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